The impeachment clause of the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 3, Clause 6: states: “When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside.”
The Constitution expressly requires the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court to preside over a presidential impeachment trial. But Chief Justice John Roberts is nowhere to be seen in the ongoing U.S. Senate “trial” of former President Donald J. Trump.
Instead, Senate President Pro Tempore John Leahy, a partisan Democrat from Vermont who already has declared his support for Trump’s impeachment, is presiding. Leahy is also a juror, which makes the situation even more absurd.
If it is Robert’s job to preside at the impeachment trial then he darn well should be doing it. But he is definitely not there. He’s not sick or otherwise incapacitated. He’s just absent.
The Supreme Court has no comment about Roberts’ absence from Trump’s second “impeachment trial.” There is speculation that Roberts refused to preside because Trump is no longer President. As previously noted, the impeachment clause specifically pertains to “[w]hen the President of the United States is tried.”
Roberts’ Absence = Not An Impeachment Trial
Since the U.S. Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of the U.S. Constitution, Roberts’ absence pretty much settles the question about whether a former president can be impeached pursuant to the U.S. Constitution. Contrary to all of the commentary by law professors and Democrats, it is clear that a non-president cannot be impeached under the U.S. Constitution’s impeachment clause. If he could, Roberts would be there!
So the national spectacle that is taking place in Washington, D.C. is not a bona fide impeachment trial as we have come to understand the term. It is something else. It is breaking new ground in history.
Perhaps we should have a naming contest, like when a baby panda is born in the zoo?
Republicans have referred to the “trial” as an exercise in Democratic Party partisan muscle flexing. A three ring circus. Political theater. An attempt to prevent Trump from running for re-election in 2024.
Roberts oversaw Trump’s first impeachment trial last year, in which Trump was acquitted. Chief Justice William Rehnquist oversaw former Democratic President Bill Clinton’s trial in 1999 and Chief Justice Salmon Chase presided over former GOP President Andrew Johnson’s in 1868.